Before selecting an attorney, you should be aware of the elements of a wrongful death case. When a person dies as a result of the actions or negligence of another, their heirs may seek damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases are complicated and can only be brought by the representative of the decedent’s estate.
What are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case?
To succeed on a wrongful death case, you must prove a number of elements. The first is the death of the decedent. After clearing this initial hurdle, you face a much burden, which is proving that the death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of another.
There are a number of elements you must prove to establish negligence. The first is duty. This means you must show that the defendant in the wrongful death case owed a legal duty to the decedent. This could be a number of things. It could be a duty to operate a motor vehicle safely in accordance with the rules of the road. It could also be a duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition. In construction or other work related deaths, it could be a duty to protect decedent from workplace hazards.
Once you prove duty, you need to prove that this duty was breached. Using our earlier examples, you must show that the defendant failed to operate their motor vehicle safely, or failed to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. In construction accident (New York Labor Law) wrongful death cases you must prove the defendants violated the Labor Law.
After that, you must prove that the breach of this duty caused the death that brought about a wrongful death case. This is somewhat self-explanatory. Did the breach of duty cause the death? For example, did a developer’s failure to provide a worker from height-related hazards cause them to fall to their death?
Once breach of duty and causation is proven, you must establish the damages element of your wrongful death case. You already proved that wrongful death resulted from this negligence. There are many types of damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death case.
The first category is pre-death damages. This includes a “survival” claim also know as pre-death pain and suffering. It also includes medical costs incurred before the death. The second category is post-death damages. These include funeral costs and damages sustained by a decedent’s heirs.
The other damages in wrongful death cases are more abstract. These include the loss a deceased person’s expected lifetime income. The loss of inheritance due to the death is also recoverable. The decedent’s heirs can also claim the value of services the decedent would have provided over their lifetime are recoverable. Similarly, the loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided is recoverable. Finally, a decedent’s spouse can recover for the loss of love, companionship, and consortium.
If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Platta Law Firm, who will walk you through the elements of your wrongful death case.